Michael Becker/FOX.
January 23, 2013 10:50 PM

As American Idol‘s talent search headed to Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday, the already tense relationship between judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj went even further south.

Things got so heated that the production had to shut down for a bit, leaving a speedway full of aspiring singers sitting idle. The cause of the friction? Disagreements over the judges’ varying styles of critique – particularly when it came to 20-year-old Summer Cunningham.

“Why are we picking her apart?” Minaj asked after Carey questioned whether the contestant’s voice was best-suited for country music.

“Really? Is that what I did?” responded Carey. “We’re trying to help her as opposed to just talk about her outfit.”

That retort caused Minaj to throw a fit. “Oh, you’re right. I’m sorry I can’t help her. Maybe I should just get off the [BLEEP] panel,” she said before walking off the set.

As Minaj left, Carey got in one more shot: Referring to Minaj storming off, she said, “I was going to do that the next time she ragged on me.”

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But the judging panel – including Keith Urban and Randy Jackson – also had plenty moments of togetherness in Charlotte. They gave unanimous thumbs up to Brian Rittenberry, 27 – a dad from Jasper, Ga., whose wife bounced back from battling cancer – for belting out “Let It Be” with a big booming voice.

They also swooned over 16-year-old Isabel Gonzalez, whom Jackson plucked out of a high school class to audition for Idol as part of this season’s new nomination segments. And they were all in agreement that 20-year-old Joel Nemoyer from Carlisle, Pa., should try a different line of work after he tried crooning a Michael Bublé song while lying flat on his back.

Even without the histrionics, Minaj proved to be the most entertaining of the judges. Between her ongoing habit of assigning nicknames to all the contestants – she dubbed singers everything from “collard greens” to “Jumanji” – Minaj also managed to ask hilariously bizarre questions (“Have you ever lived in Tokyo?”) and put new and sometimes creepy twists on her positive critiques. “I want to skin you and wear you,” she told one girl she was particularly fond of.

Even with the short interruption due to the judges’ kerfuffle, the Idol gang managed to find 36 contestants to put through to Hollywood.

And they’ll be back for more auditions in Baton Rouge, La., on Thursday.

RELATED: American Idol‘s New Judges Should Try Harder, Says PEOPLE’s TV Critic

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